Well I’m sure I’m among many whose plans have ‘gang agley’ this week. As I write this we are being battered by the wind and, in the outer isles, experiencing power cuts. When you live on an island as I do, you have to be prepared to make contingency plans or just hunker down, philosophically or otherwise.
I was in a conversation last week about ‘outcomes’ . One view, acquired possibly from experience in target -driven environments, is that decisions about desired action must be tightly tied to agreed outcomes. I wonder if anyone has told the Holy Spirit about that. Yes, it’s common sense to have an end in view when embarking on an undertaking but even in the business world that gave us goals and targets there is an understanding that too rigid a plan fails to take account of the sheer complexity of life. And indeed the setting of very strict targets can actually work against doing a good job.
We make a plan and the weather – or other contingency – blows a great big hole in it. But have you ever found that the alternative worked out better? When things do go pear-shaped, we rearrange our expectations and follow a course of action which takes account of the new circumstances. If we have a clear purpose and a general direction of travel, we are in a better position to respond to change which, paradoxically, is a constant feature of life.
Thomas Merton writing to a friend to offer encouragement to continue to follow the way of Jesus.
Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.
Travel safely this week if you must!